The Cruel Local Sea

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Folks, here in Gladstone we love spending time on the water, especially when the weather is fine and the sea is flatter than a hot beer.

But last week, we were reminded of just how dangerous our waterways can be as news of the terrible trawler tragedy unfolded off Round Hill.

Still, you don’t have to go to sea to see just how lethal the ocean can be off our regions’ coastline, simply head down to the Maritime Museum and check out the large wall map full of red dots marking the ships that have come to grief in our neck of the woods.

Many of them were wrecked in the days of sail, but a surprising number were modern vessels not reliant on wind and tide, to steer, stop or hastily backup.

On the water though, I’ve seen sudden squalls transform our harbour into a frothing washing machine, and, as a boy, watched my father wrestle his boat through the North Entrance while the wind, waves and tide were having an all-in brawl.

Bouncing about on the floor, my brother and I strapped on extra life jackets while gibbering earnest prayers to ‘Evinrude’, the lesser known aquatic deity who keeps old outboard motors running.

Nearly every local boatie, sailor, grotty yachty and fisherman can tell tales of miraculous escapes from rogue waves, big seas and sudden changes of weather which turned a routine outing into a waking nightmare.

Fortunately, they survived to recount their yarns, because, as we’ve sadly seen, even with modern technology, things can still go tragically wrong on the water.

Yet, despite rough seas, gusting winds and lashing rain, brave volunteers took to the water in droves to search for the missing trawlermen. Meanwhile, bighearted people without boats patrolled the shoreline in 4WD’s, on motorbikes and even on foot. And in the background, the region continues to pour out heartfelt tributes, while others do their best to comfort the men’s anxious families.

Because, at the end of the day, you don’t have to go to sea to know that we’re all basically in the same boat.

About Greg Bray

The scribbler behind the 'On a Lighter Note' column.
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